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Apple at 40: Remembering when Steve Jobs went electric

Michael Simon | April 5, 2016
The iPhone keynote was a highlight of Apple's whole ride.

Jobs may have played coy, but he knew it was coming. After unlocking the iPhone for the first time, he acknowledged the hushed exclamations of admiration by asking, “Want to see that again?” Like Eddie Van Halen’s first live tapping solo or Don Felder working out the slide guitar on “Hotel California,” that unlocking gesture had them all mesmerized.

original iphone unlock
Whoa. 

The rest of the demo didn’t disappoint, even if it never quite matched the level of that first swipe. As he took us on a tour of the Mail, Calendar, Safari and Photos apps, the show took on a more traditional feel, with expected applause breaks, timely humor and a few well-placed “booms,” but Jobs’s excitement gave even the most mundane details a palpable, profuse energy. Every pause added a tinge of anticipation, every breath carried a perceptible weight. For some 80 minutes, Jobs delivered a keynote for the ages, a performance whose beautiful craftsmanship was matched only by the iPhone itself.

Introspection

There was no “one more thing” like in years past, and certainly no performance from U2 or John Mayer. Instead of a massive crescendo, in fact, the conclusion was nearly marred by a glitch. When it was time for the slide about iPhone market share predictions, Jobs’s remote stopped working. But it didn’t rattle him. Instead of throwing a tantrum or disappearing backstage to check on the issue, he took the opportunity to share an impromptu story about Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak.

It served as the perfect bridge between old and new Apple, illustrating how the company has matured, while acknowledging its rebellious, whimsical roots.

As he described how they had used a TV zapper to mess with Star Trek fans at Woz’s Berkeley dorm, it wasn’t just a peek into a young Steve Jobs. It served as the perfect bridge between old and new Apple, illustrating how the company has matured, while acknowledging its rebellious, whimsical roots. It was a spontaneous, real moment, but it felt as if it belonged. Maybe Jobs had the story queued up in his mind in the very event of such a glitch, or maybe the significance of day had caused him to recall it the night before, but it punctuated the keynote in a way a preprogrammed slide never could.

steve jobs iphone
It changed everything. 

And it also served as a segue to the final announcement of the day, that Apple was dropping Computer from its company name. It was a testament to the expanding non-Mac product line, but also a bet that the iPhone was going to be huge. Jobs knew he had a Stairway to Heaven-sized hit on his hands, and he was willing to stake his legacy on it.

 

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